- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Kid trying to have sex with the dwarf prostitute but discovering that he's impotent could be considered one. However, it may actually be a case of Fridge Horror if you consider the interpretation that he's the one responsible for the disappearances of the children, and that the horrible sight in the outhouse is the little girl from the saloon, who he raped and killed.
- Complete Monster: Judge Holden is one of the most famous and memorable villains in American Literature. Our first introduction to him is getting a man lynched for false charges purely for the fun of it. Holden acts as a corrupting force to the Glanton Gang throughout the novel, subtly pushing them to commit more and more atrocities on the undeserving. Holden's savagery and cruelty utterly outstrip the rest of his contemporaries, and the lives he takes are often done so with more terrible violence than the others. Holden takes a particular interest in raping and murdering children. References to Paradise Lost frequently put him in the role of Satan, and he's heavily implied to be some sort of supernatural creature or incarnation of pure evil. In the end, it's implied that he performs a murder too grisly for even this dark tale to describe.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Owing to this being one of the darkest books ever written, some readers will inevitably see it as a gratuitously violent and terrifyingly depressing book, with the borderline Black And Black Morality and Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending doing little to improve their opinion.
- Foe Yay: Between the Kid and Judge Holden. It's established fairly early in the book that Holden is a paedophilic rapist, which explains his interest in the Kid and what happens in the ending.
- Moral Event Horizon:
- Nausea Fuel: The massacre in the Indian camp, particularly, this part:There were in the camp a number of Mexican slaves and these ran forth calling out in spanish and were brained or shot and one of the Delawares emerged from the smoke with a naked infant dangling in each hand and squatted at a ring of midden stones and swung them by the heels each in turn and bashed their heads against the stones so that the brains burst forth through the fontanel in a bloody spew and humans on fire came shrieking forth like berserkers and the riders hacked them down with their enormous knives and a young woman ran up and embraced the bloodied forefeet of Glanton's warhorse.
- Nightmare Fuel: Yes. It'd be easier to find passages that don't contain some.
- Rooting for the Empire: While Glanton and his men might seem like a bunch of badass outlaws at first, the sheer depravity of their actions (especially in the aforementioned scene in the Indian camp) is off-putting enough for the reader to find them morally repulsive. It doesn't help that there aren't many decent characters in the book to begin with. Once it's revealed that the Mexican army is pursuing the gang, it's easy to start hoping they'll succeed in their mission by wiping out Glanton and his compatriots.
- Squick: The Idiot. The Judge ties a leash around his neck and walks him like a pet, naked and drooling, as he pursues the kid through the bone yard.
- Tear Jerker:
- When the Kid now the Man offers to escort the old woman he found back to civilization, only to realize she's actually a dried-up corpse that's been sitting out in the desert for a long time.
- At one point, some women take exception to the treatment of the idiot by his keeper, especially after discovering that the idiot's keeper is his own brother; they wash him in the river, dress him in clothes, and try to look after him despite his infirmity. But it doesn't last, and before the night is out the idiot tries to drown himself and ends up a plaything of the Judge, in a similar state of nakedness and degradation as before.
- On the former note, everything about the Time Skip near the end is this. The Kid, having lost his only friends, Toadvine and Tobin, the former of whom is hanged, the latter of whom is never heard from again, is left wandering a lawless America, unable to do anything about the increasing violence across the country, and is at risk of succumbing to the evil himself. One interpretation of the ending suggests that he did.
YMMV / Blood Meridian